“Curses the eyes”: fast footwork draws closer to Chicago

Footwork, a Chicago-born form of music and dance, is famous for its speed. DJs deliver a tense polyrhythmic mix of stuttering samples at a ramp-up rate of 160 beats per minute. Dancers respond to challenges with intricate pivot, kicking, and scissor assaults that are ridiculously faster than music.

This summer, its speed finds its size. From Tuesday through September 16, the footnote short “Footnotes” will screen on the 2.5-acre frontage of Merchandise Mart, a huge building that spans two blocks of downtown Chicago. This is a screen the size of about two football fields. Every night an incredibly fast dance develops incredibly fast.

This raises awareness of the style developed by young black people and is not always welcome in the city center. He is popular all over the world, but he is not always recognized and respected in his hometown.

“It’s a hell of a moment,” said Jamal Oliver, a footwork dancer well known as Light Bulb. “Footwork has been part of Chicago for 30 years.”

Litebulb, 31, who danced and helped in the film, said it was exciting to see next to the building, but “more rewarding is the opportunity for the kids who never get the chance. It’s is to give. “Prepaying is part of the mission Footwork team of the time, The Litebulb group discovered in 2014 and its non-profit association, Open a circle..

In footwork terminology, “opening a circle” means creating a space for dancing when the track is full. Open the Circle aims to do the same in the area of ​​social justice, not only by creating space for dance and dancers, but also by disseminating knowledge through education and by dedicating resources such as grants to community that created the footwork. I go.

“When most people start this kind of organization they are already making a lot of money and now they want to give back,” Litebulb said. “But we are doing it from the ground up.”

By design, the work of Era and Open the Circle is a public ‘dance down’ summer camp (Circle up), video, rap single, tour show (“To Uruk”) And a feature documentary on the way (“City body”). The group extends their footwork to the world of art galleries, colleges and music festivals without losing touch with their origins.

A “footnote” is an extension of these efforts, both advertising and results. “We’ve done a lot of work with the city of Chicago,” said Wills Graspiegel, a documentary filmmaker and scholar who directed the film with period dancer and host Brandon Calhorn. .. “The city recognizes us as good partners. (Glasspiegel and Litebulb are both founders of Era and executive director of Open the Circle.)

In this case, the Culture Department and the Special Events Department contacted about their partnership with the “Chicago Music Year” project. Art in the market, Public art projection on buildings since 2018.

Glasspiegel jumped at the chance. “The footwork symbolizes our city, so we tried to make as many films as possible in Chicago, representing the city that the people of Chicago would know,” he said. The filmmaker brought in musicians with deep roots in the region. Angel Bat Dawid. Amalhubert Hypnotic Brass Ensemble; And that Chicago Bucket Boys, Glasspiegel said, “It’s the sound of the city of Chicago.” “In the Wurkz” dancer Elisha Chandler sings.

But when a film musician relates footwork to a city, the method of composition connects the musician to footwork. To create the soundtrack, the Bucket Boys improvised at 160 beats per minute, after which others improvised by riffing the blues song. “Sweet Home, Chicago.” A leading figure in the genre, DJ Spinn treated all these works like samples and turned them into footwork.

Glasspiegel used the music as a map to edit the images of the musician and the dancer together. The contribution of Calhorn, also known as Chef Manny, was also significant. This is to convert part of the video into an animation. This makes the dance more readable.

This is particularly important for “footnotes”. Merchandise Mart is to present a difficult surface to projection. The facade has hundreds of windows, with or without lighting. However, the animations help convey footwork more generally. “The footwork moves so fast that it curses your eyes,” Graspiegel said. Calhorn has the inner knowing of the dancer to clarify wording and form.

At one point in the film, the animated DJ Spinn taps the MPC, the sampling device that is the main instrument of footwork music, and the animated dancer bounces the key. Glasspiegel says this image is important because it is a metaphor. “This is the theme that drives us. Footwork is both music and dance, and people might not know it without knowing the story. “

Footwork was developed in the late 80s and early 90s in dance clubs, community centers, and rollerlink nightclubs playing house music. Another important site is Bud Billiken Parade, One of the largest African-American parades in the country and one of the oldest parades held every summer since 1929. In these places, basic footwork such as the Holy Spirit (swinging limbs) and Erk n Jerk (sequence) move. Sea seam, side kick), the footwork appeared before bearing its name.

Some of the best dance teams of the time – main attractions, House-O-Matics, U-Phi-U – Dancers turned DJs, including RP Boo and DJ Rashad. And it was the DJs who went from those dancers to DJs who created the footwork sounds, increased the tempo, removed things, and increased the tension (or ditched the rival dancers). Dance battle – A fierce improvised showdown that became the heart of footwork culture in the early 2000s. The overlapping rhythms gave dancers more choice and competition spurred innovation.

As was the case in hip-hop before, when MCs who made money for the music industry outperformed b-boys who didn’t play music without dancing, especially overseas. “People weren’t really watching the dance until DJ Rashad and DJ Spinn took the dancers on tour in 2010,” Litebulb said.

Litebulb was one of those dancers and found enthusiastic fans in Europe, but was not well recognized in his hometown. “Dancers are often seen as backgrounds and bodies, not artists,” he said. “It’s important to celebrate and balance what the DJ does. And What the dancer does. “

The “footnotes” do this, but they also show other ways the era and Open The Circle influenced the footwork scene. Women were kicked out when footwork shifted from clubs, parades and dance groups to more isolated battles. The times and the open circle have been Invite them again..

“In fighting culture, women had to stand to the side and look cute,” said Diamond Hardiman, a 27-year-old dancer in the film. “You couldn’t join the circle.”

Women of her generation began to fight. “Seeing what we can do with each other to improve ourselves and let men know that we women can do the same things you do is empowerment. Has been. “

Women like Hardiman have made room for themselves, but Open the Circle has also helped. Reconnect the footwork with youth dance groups The place where it started. These groups are full of girls and are often led by women. (The women of the Shkunna Stewart family, who oversee the Bring Out Talent group, have run the group for four generations.)

Members of these groups are the core population of summer camps open on Chicago’s south and east sides, and camps taught by women like Hardiman. Some of these children appear in “footnotes”. A girl called ladybug jumps like a 12 story grasshopper.

But the camp’s goal is broader than correcting gender imbalances. “Footwork is seen as a kind of nostalgia in our community, but if we can accommodate children, they can stay alive,” says Litebulb. “It will be a whole new development than we expected.”

And it’s more than perpetuating the style. “Footwork saves lives,” as some of the camp’s t-shirts prove.

“It really saved my life,” Hardiman said, mirroring the emotions of members from other eras. “I grew up watching things I shouldn’t have seen when I was young, but Footwork showed me that I didn’t have to do these things.”

“I don’t want my child to experience what I had to do,” she added.

This desire can also be felt in movies. “The biggest thing for me is showing kids all they can,” Litebulb said. “Look at yourself next to the building now. Who thought?

“Curses the eyes”: fast footwork draws closer to Chicago

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About Margaret L. Portillo

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